Longtime Gilroy librarian set to retire

Lani Yoshimura caps 46-year career

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CLOSING THE BOOK Lani Yoshimura will retire on Aug. 23 after 46 years with the Santa Clara County Library District. File photo

By Kimberly Ewertz

Lani Yoshimura steps down from her role as Gilroy Community Librarian on Aug. 23, yet her ties to the community will never be broken.

“As much as I can I’m going to keep in touch,” Yoshimura said. “Because Gilroy really is where my heart lies.”

County Librarian Jennifer Weeks said Yoshimura’s involvement with local organizations and offering positive opportunities for library patrons has been an integral part of the Gilroy community. 

“Her friendly and thoughtful nature carried through in her management of the Gilroy Library,” Weeks said. 

Gilroy City Councilmember Dion Bracco, who serves on the Santa Clara County Library District Joint Powers Authority Board, said he is grateful to Yoshimura for her more than four decades of dedication to the community, especially to its youngest residents.

“I have had the pleasure to know and work with Lani for 15 years and appreciate all she has done for the youth of the City of Gilroy,” Bracco said. 

With a master’s degree in library science, Yoshimura left San Jose State University in 1974 to begin her 46-year career with the SCCLD. In 1975 she was sent to the Gilroy Library.

“At that time Gilroy was about 10,000 people, it wasn’t very big,” Yoshimura said, adding, it reminded her of her home town of Colusa.

From Gilroy she moved to the Campbell Library as acting Community Librarian. 

“Campbell and Gilroy were the two libraries I wanted to work at, and I’ve been able to work at them [both],” Yoshimura said. 

In 1982 she returned to Gilroy as the Community Librarian feeling secure that, “this is where I would spend the life of my career.”

“You get to see the results of the work you do, but you also get to see the changes in families, the kids that come here, you see them born, and then [you see] them grow up, it’s really heartening,” Yoshimura said.

Supervising Librarian Sharon Kelly said she believes the entire community has benefited greatly under Yoshimura’s leadership.

“Lani has been a champion for the underserved, the immigrant, the neighborhood families, teachers, parents, students, and all who work with children to help them read and learn,” Kelly said.

Yoshimura realized the community’s needs required a much bigger space than the 12,500-square-foot library constructed in 1975. Throughout the years she continued her pursuit of that goal, and in 2012 the current library, located at 350 W. Sixth St., was completed. The 53,500-square-foot space offers the community the capacity to accommodate its many needs.

“She worked tirelessly to create a library, welcome to all, that will stand for many years to come,” Kelly said.

“For me the rewards are just watching a person, or a family, or a dynamic in the family change because somebody found something to help them,” Yoshimura said. “It’s the most important part we do.”

Supervising Librarian Kelly Young believes Yoshimura’s legacy will live on. 

“She has proven during her career full of meaningful achievements that big ideas can be made into reality and I know that those of us who follow in her path will continue to be inspired to dream big,” Young said.

Yoshimura’s motivation behind her many accomplishments, which include helping found the County Library Reading Program, teaching adults to read and write, was instilled in her at a young age.

“My father had a very deep seated love of the freedom of speech,” Yoshimura said, adding she believes libraries are the embodiment of that inalienable right. “Libraries really and truly have a profound effect that really change peoples’ lives, and make a big difference.”

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